Major League Soccer announced the process and timing for the 2016 MLS Expansion draft today, and the good news is that it’s a much paired down process from the drafts earlier in the League’s life.
The Draft will be held on December 13th at 11AM PT, just three days after MLS Cup, and will allow the two newest members of the league, Atlanta United, and Minnesota United FC, to select a very limited number of players from MLS’ existing ranks to help with the creation of their rosters.
Unlike previous years where multiple players could be selected, and it was sure to affect most every team’s roster, in 2016 there will only be five rounds of selection, which means a total of ten players. The league has also stipulated that once a team has had a single player selected, that team cannot lose anyone else. So in total, only 10 teams of the leagues existing 20, will be “harmed.”
Like every MLS Expansion Draft, there are a bunch of rules that come into play when protecting a team’s roster. Each team is able to protect 11 players in total. Designated Players, just as in years past, are not automatically protected. So Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, and Giovani dos Santos would all have to be protected, in theory. The one exclusion comes in the form of protection for a team’s Homegrown players. “Generation Adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2016 MLS Season and Homegrown players on a Club’s Supplemental/Reserve Roster at the end of the 2016 MLS Season are automatically protected (Clubs do not have to use a protected slot on them).”
Which is good news for a bunch of the Galaxy’s younger players still bouncing between the Senior Team and LA Galaxy II, in USL. Players such as Bradford Jamieson IV, Jack McBean, Raul Mendiola, Oscar Sorto, and Jose Villarreal should be safe. But one player that does not automatically get protected is Gyasi Zardes. Zardes is designated as a Homegrown Player, but because of his prominent place on the Senior roster, he won’t collect that automatic exemption from the draft. The Galaxy would need to use one of its 11 slots to protect him if they want to exempt him from the draft.
Players who are retiring — looking at you Landon Donovan and Steven Gerrard — do not have to be protected and will not be available for selection. However, if they aren’t protected, and they come back to play in 2017, the team will lose the right of first refusal to that player. In Donovan’s case, it wouldn’t really matter, because he’d still be considered a free agent (as far as I understand it).
Another issue may arise when speaking of International players — those players deemed by MLS that take up one of the coveted MLS International Spots. The League limits the total number of overseas players to 160. And they’ll also mandate that MLS teams not flood the expansion draft with those players. “Clubs may make available a number of international players equal to their total number of international players minus 3, provided that if a Club has 3 or less international players it may not make more than one 1 player available.” So let’s say the LA Galaxy have a total of seven International players (a number we’ve verified with the club), then the Galaxy would be required to protect four Internationals while making 3 available (7 INTL players – 3 = 4).
So you see, it’s not as simple as just protecting 11 players. It’s about who you’re willing to part with and who you must protect. Realistically, the LA Galaxy could not protect players like Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard if they’re not planning on bringing them back. With Steven Gerrard, it’s been widely assumed he’ll be retiring, so you won’t need a spot for him. But Robbie Keane might get protected regardless of his current DP status. Especially if the Galaxy are attempting to bring him back on a Non-Designated Player Deal.
Another interesting case may be Ariel Lassiter. He doesn’t occupy a senior roster spot but also isn’t protected via any Homegrown Player Status. The only catch being, that if Atlanta or Minnesota pick Lassiter, they would be forced to put him on a Senior Roster spot through the Roster Compliance Date. That’s basically stating that his salary would count against the Salary Cap.
We’ve included a chart with the players, their ages, and their status’ to the best of our knowledge. And be sure to click this LINK for a complete list of all the rules regarding the MLS Expansion Draft.
Unlike in years past, where the LA Galaxy were almost certain to lose at least one player, this 2016 expansion draft brings hope that the team could escape with zero damage. And for most MLS teams, that is how it should be. General Managers and Owners spend a lot of time trying to fit players under a salary cap every single year. And it looks like the League is finally acknowledging the artform that is the MLS Roster. It’s various rules, like restrictive Salary Caps, Designated Players, Targeted and General Allocation Money, mean that teams are forced to balance each years’ roster on an edge.
But regardless of if or who the Galaxy lose to the expansion draft, it’ll be interesting to see who Bruce Arena, General Manager extraordinaire, finds valuable enough to protect.
Use the chart below, and the rules we’ve explained to give us your 11 protected players!
*The chart below will be updated with correct information as it becomes available. INTL roster spots have been confirmed by the club. This is official.